A violent neo-Nazi paramilitary group that advocates terror attacks to provoke a civil war has been outlawed in Australia, amid a wider national crackdown on extremist groups.
Federal Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews expressed concern about The Base, an American hate group that has planned violent racist assassinations and poison water supplies, as it forges links with local right-wing extremist groups.
It’s just the second right-wing extremist organisation designated by the federal government as a terror entity.
Australian terrorism experts say it’s a welcome and overdue move.
“It’s important because it lets people in Australia know this is a serious group to stay away from,” said Dr Kaz Ross, a researcher on far-right groups.
“Australians need to stop being naive and wise up. These international groups are appealing to some Australians, and people need to know what they’re joining.”
The Base, Hizballah join terror list
On Wednesday, Ms Andrews announced the federal government would add The Base to its list of recognised terrorist organisations under the federal Criminal Code.
Ms Andrews also announced intention to expand a terror listing that already applies to Hizballah’s external security organisation to the entire Hizballah group.
“The government has zero tolerance for violence, and there is no cause – religious or ideological – that can justify killing innocent people,” she said.
There are 26 organisations on the federal government’s list of terror groups, including Al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Islamic State and Jemaah Islamiyah.
The Base is only the second right-wing group ever listed, following the proscription of Sonnenkrieg Division in August.
The listing makes it an offence to be a member of, direct activities of, train with, provide support to, or associate with any such group.
It comes as Australian counter-terror and intelligence bodies warn of an increasing level of far-right activity domestically.
Director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Mike Burgess, said right-wing extremism made up 40 per cent of the spy agency’s workload.
Ms Andrews described The Base as a “violent, racist, neo-Nazi group” that had organised paramilitary training camps overseas, planned terror attacks, and was already listed as a terror group by Canada and the United Kingdom.
She said both The Base and Hizballah had “a fluid number” of supporters in this country, but that their listing was a recognition of “a threat posed to Australia”.
“We are concerned about activities of The Base here in Australia,” Ms Andrews told The New Daily at a Parliament House press conference.
She also said the federal government was concerned about links The Base may have to local extremist organisations, and that she was “very open” to listing domestic right-wing groups on the terror list.
Labor’s shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally said the Opposition welcomed the listing.
But the senator, who has personally received threats from far-right groups, called on the federal government to consider listing other extremist and neo-Nazi groups currently operating in Australia.
Separately, NSW police arrested a man in Tamworth on Tuesday who allegedly shared “nationalist and racist violent extremist messaging” online.
Police claim the man “advocated violent acts against several Australian political leaders”, and have charged him with one count of urging violence against members or groups, and one count of advocating terrorism.
There is no indication his activities are linked to The Base or Wednesday’s terror listing.
What is The Base?
Dr Ross, an independent researcher on far-right groups, described The Base as an “accelerationist” terror group – referring to a violent extremist ideology where groups advocate for attacks in order to provoke a racial civil war.
“They believe there is no political solution through elections, voting, campaigns, no way of changing the system. Basically they believe migrants and anybody they consider degenerates need to be ‘purged’, and that anything which accelerates chaos and collapse of society will be to their benefit,” Dr Ross told TND.
The group’s members train in survivalist methods, and some have bought rural plots of land in the United States with plans of starting white-only communes.
“Some describe them as preppers, but they’re beyond that. They want to create chaos,” Dr Ross said.
Numerous members of The Base have been arrested and charged over plotting to kill minorities and police internationally, while others have spoken of derailing trains and poisoning water supplies.
‘Not a timely response’
The ABC reported in 2020 The Base was trying to recruit Australians to its cause.
Despite some supporters reportedly scattered in cities across the country, Dr Ross believes its local presence is very small, despite attempts from overseas to recruit Australians online.
“The Base do have a presence in Australia, so the question is why hasn’t this listing been done before?” Dr Kristy Campion, a lecturer in terrorism studies at Charles Sturt University, told TND.
“It’s obviously very welcome but this is a group that’s been around since 2018 … it’s not a timely response, but it’s welcome.”
Levi West, the director of CSU’s terrorism program, said The Base had a “relatively small footprint” but that its explicit advocacy of violence made it a concern.
He also noted that far-right groups had a tendency toward “lone wolf”-style attacks.
“The nature of terrorism is that you don’t need a large organisation to have grossly disproportionate impacts. It only takes one,” Mr West told TND.
Dr Campion said the listing of The Base sent a signal that authorities were taking the threat of right-wing extremism seriously.
“It’s also sending that message to people who may be the ideological targets of The Base – left-wing groups, the LGBTIQ community, people of ethnic backgrounds – that the hate being spoken about them, the way they’re being targeted, isn’t acceptable,” she said.
“The jihadist threat hasn’t disappeared, but authorities are doing their best to manage a fast-changing threat scape. These groups tend to fragment, fall apart, get back together with a new name and clubhouse. They’re a moving target, so it’s affirming to see action.”
Mr West said right-wing terror was now the “dominant” threat in the US, and welcomed Australian authorities taking further action.
“It’s a declaration on behalf of the community that these types of ideals are intolerable, and we fundamentally condemn them,” he said.
“Right-wing extremism is a different challenge to confronting jihadism. It’s more complex and much more politically challenging.”